The Insanity Behind Urban Parking Requirements

Los Angeles Magazine ran a nice profile of UCLA Professor Don Shoup, pioneer of the parking reform movement to eliminate off-street parking requirements and modernize parking meters to charge performance-based prices.  In Shoup’s vision, local governments would dedicate any parking revenue increases to improving the neighborhood from which they came.  Few other reforms could do more to enhance the sustainability and convenience of urban design and discourage unnecessary driving.  The article describes the history of parking requirements and how two obscure manuals influenced urban planners across the country to impose boilerplate parking requirements on all types of new developments, regardless of their location or transit-accessibility:

Urban planners, says Shoup, have no theory, use no hard data, when choosing parking requirements; they consult the manuals to decide. Every business imaginable is found within: Funeral parlors? A basic formula is eight parking spaces plus one for each hearse. Convents? One-tenth of a space per nun is fine. Adult bookstores? One space for every prospective patron plus one for the cashier holding the longest shift (no mention of the flasher in the alley). Public swimming pools? One space for every 2,500 gallons of water on the premises, chlorine included.

California Legislators should consider this history when they once again consider a parking reform bill this year to reduce unnecessary parking minimums on transit-oriented projects. The “do-over” of AB 710, sponsored last year by the California Infill Builders Association, will meet head-on with opposition from the California League of Cities. The League was fond of arguing that the bill would impose “one size fits all” requirements on cities to reduce parking minimums in infill areas.  Shoup’s research, however, demonstrates that the true “one size fits all” problem is the parking requirements themselves, mindlessly copied and pasted into local zoning codes without regard for transit-accessibility and urban form.

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Reader Comments

6 Replies to “The Insanity Behind Urban Parking Requirements”

  1. Prof. Shoup’s capitalist remedies are boilerplate themselves.

    And his boilerplate capitalism is not right for Los Angeles.

    For one thing, L.A. needs to subsidize or provide good, reliable alternate means of transportation for poor workers and students, and even for the struggling middle class, before taking parking out of service or raising its price. L.A. does not have much of a subway or anything that middle class (or certainly, upper class) residents claim to “Like.”

    For another thing, Prof. Shoup’s capitalism should pay better attention to his employer’s home turf. There are some wonderful unused parking spaces very near UCLA’s law, planning and policy schools. Let’s see him get the State Legislature to mandate that all comers (including workers and students, not just residents) may purchase any area-based parking permits at the same price offered to area residents.

    (Let’s see him take an anti-trust case for refusal to deal preferential parking permits to the court of public opinion.)

    Oh, that Los Angeles Magazine article leads with the story of Disney Hall but leaves out the fact that the county is now using the Disney Hall lot for juror parking, saving it lots of money.
    Do you want jurors to have to pay for parking? Or have concert patrons use L.A. buses and walk home after dark in their evening wear? Or pay L.A. rates for rides in not-always-available cramped uncomfortable taxis?
    People who take BART to concerts in San Francisco (given as the better example) get to park their cars in well-lit parking lots or structures at the train stations. You don’t find that on the Westside of Los Angeles.

  2. Prof. Shoup’s capitalist remedies are boilerplate themselves.

    And his boilerplate capitalism is not right for Los Angeles.

    For one thing, L.A. needs to subsidize or provide good, reliable alternate means of transportation for poor workers and students, and even for the struggling middle class, before taking parking out of service or raising its price. L.A. does not have much of a subway or anything that middle class (or certainly, upper class) residents claim to “Like.”

    For another thing, Prof. Shoup’s capitalism should pay better attention to his employer’s home turf. There are some wonderful unused parking spaces very near UCLA’s law, planning and policy schools. Let’s see him get the State Legislature to mandate that all comers (including workers and students, not just residents) may purchase any area-based parking permits at the same price offered to area residents.

    (Let’s see him take an anti-trust case for refusal to deal preferential parking permits to the court of public opinion.)

    Oh, that Los Angeles Magazine article leads with the story of Disney Hall but leaves out the fact that the county is now using the Disney Hall lot for juror parking, saving it lots of money.
    Do you want jurors to have to pay for parking? Or have concert patrons use L.A. buses and walk home after dark in their evening wear? Or pay L.A. rates for rides in not-always-available cramped uncomfortable taxis?
    People who take BART to concerts in San Francisco (given as the better example) get to park their cars in well-lit parking lots or structures at the train stations. You don’t find that on the Westside of Los Angeles.

  3. One of the beauties of Shoup’s ideas is that the increased parking revenue can fund improvements to the community, which could (and should) include transit enhancements. The $100 million for the parking garage at Disney Hall, for example, could have funded a variety of transit options, from shuttle buses to direct bus service from off-site locations like the Hollywood Bowl provides. In addition, for Disney Hall patrons willing to pay higher on-street parking rates, that extra money could also go to transit (possibly even funding a subway extension to Disney Hall). You identify a chicken-and-egg problem, but we can’t get better transit without money, and ending subsidized and inefficient parking is a good way to start. BTW, one of Shoup’s first real world experiments was the parking lots outside UCLA Law. They’re set to have at least one of eight spots always available. I don’t know what happens with that meter revenue though. But it definitely is a lot easier to find metered parking outside the law school now.

  4. One of the beauties of Shoup’s ideas is that the increased parking revenue can fund improvements to the community, which could (and should) include transit enhancements. The $100 million for the parking garage at Disney Hall, for example, could have funded a variety of transit options, from shuttle buses to direct bus service from off-site locations like the Hollywood Bowl provides. In addition, for Disney Hall patrons willing to pay higher on-street parking rates, that extra money could also go to transit (possibly even funding a subway extension to Disney Hall). You identify a chicken-and-egg problem, but we can’t get better transit without money, and ending subsidized and inefficient parking is a good way to start. BTW, one of Shoup’s first real world experiments was the parking lots outside UCLA Law. They’re set to have at least one of eight spots always available. I don’t know what happens with that meter revenue though. But it definitely is a lot easier to find metered parking outside the law school now.

  5. So “it definitely is a lot easier to find metered parking outside the law school now”. Then Shoup is encouraging driving there? (At least by the wealthy who can pay the exorbitant rate, and the non-vulnerable who can walk to and from the pay-ticket machines after dark).

    Look across Hilgard . . .

  6. So “it definitely is a lot easier to find metered parking outside the law school now”. Then Shoup is encouraging driving there? (At least by the wealthy who can pay the exorbitant rate, and the non-vulnerable who can walk to and from the pay-ticket machines after dark).

    Look across Hilgard . . .

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Ethan Elkind

Ethan Elkind is the Director of the Climate Change and Business Program, with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. In this capacity, h…

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